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Online Text Sermon - Dead to the Law, Galatians ch.2 vv.19-20

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleDead to the Law
TextGalatians ch.2 vv.19-20
Sermon ID1833

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"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2, 19-20).

1. The law of God is man's greatest problem.

2. To become dead to the law is God's salvation

3. Those only who are dead to the law love the law


Now the epistle to the Galatians is to be noted as the defence of the true gospel. The epistle to the Romans is the fullest explanation of the New Testament gospel. So you would go to Romans to have a complete and expansive explanation as to how we are saved. But when you come to Galatians there you have the apostle Paul defending that great gospel of salvation. Now you may say to me why was it necessary to defend this gospel, and the answer is: wherever the true gospel goes it is always opposed and there are always enemies to it because the gospel is a mystery which no one can understand until they are born again. The gospel is the wisdom of God and not one of us is born with that wisdom of God. The only way we can become wise so as to understand the mystery of gospel is to be born again. But sometimes even when we are born again we can go wrong through our own foolishness and ignorance and an inability to recognise what the gospel is teaching.

And that's what we find in the reading here in Galatians chapter 2. The apostle Paul is describing an incident some years previous to his writing this letter to the Galatians and he has to say painfully that on one occasion he had to stand up for the gospel even against the apostle Peter. Of all people you would imagine the apostle Peter who preached on the great day of Pentecost and who was an outstanding spiritual leader, one of the great heroes of the truth of Christ. I say you would have been expecting a man of his calibre never to have gone wrong on the question of the truth of the gospel. But Paul has to tell us here no doubt with sorrow that there was an occasion in which even the apostle Peter himself was inconsistent in his behaviour and attitude towards the gospel of Christ. And you would notice that in the reading Paul said I had to stand up to him even to his very face because Peter was to be blamed because he acted in a way which was not consistent with the truth.

Now of course Peter was a good man, a faithful man, but he acted in a way which is not consistent with the gospel of Christ so that is how Galatians here is shown to us to be the great epistle defending the gospel, a great epistle of Paul in which he contends earnestly for the gospel. And in my text in verse 19 you have to admit that he says things in such a compressed way, he summarises his thoughts so profoundly that we find difficulty understanding what the apostle Paul means. Listen to verse 19 again: "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (text). Now I'm not sure how many sermons you've heard on that text in your lifetime but I suppose and imagine it can't be very many because as you see it is a very compressed and a very succinct statement of God's full truth and I want this morning by the help of God to try to open it out.

"I through the law am dead to the law" (text)


Now let me begin my expedition like this, by asking you a question: What is man's greatest problem? Would you say to me his problem is that he is a sinner so his problem must be sin. Correct. But let's look a bit more deeper than that. Why is sin man's problem?

And the apostle Paul here in my text gives us the answer. It is because of something called God's law - you see sin has no meaning apart from the law of God. Animals don't sin because they're under no law. But man was created under the moral law and that is our problem and in a manner of speaking the greatest problem which mankind has is God's law. Because the law of God does two things: first of all, it condemns us as being guilty, and secondly it tells us that it has the power of death, and these are terrifying thoughts. That every day we live and every moment we live we live under the authority of God's moral law. And every time we diverge from the moral law in thought, or word, or deed, we are guilty in the sight of God. Sometimes our conscience tells us that, other times our conscience is asleep or dead it doesn't tell us. But every time we go against the Ten Commandments of God we are injuring fresh guilt and in that sense therefore the law, the moral law, is the greatest enemy we have. And so what we need to do is to get into a condition in which we are no longer under the condemning power of God's moral law. If we are to be saved we must find somewhere, somehow, in which we can live our lives without being under God's moral law. And there is a place, one place only, whereby we are no longer under the authority, and the command, and the jurisdiction of the moral law and now I'm going to show you in a moment what that is, but before we get to that let me show you here is the problem.

The moral law, the ten commandments, is your problem and mine until we come to salvation, when it ceases to be a problem anymore, but everyone of us until we're saved, we are under the authority of the moral law, and I cannot say that too strongly. People do not understand this. They talk about God and about religion as though this was some cheap option. This is a worthy pursuit. You're a Christian, I'm not, so what? You have your ideas, I have mine, so let's go our own separate ways and agree to differ. Yes but there is a whole lot more to be said, people who are not Christians, people who are not saved, they're living the whole of their life in this world under the moral low. That is, they are accountable for the way they live and every time in thought or word or deed they do anything at all which breaks the moral law they are increasing, and increasing, and increasing their guiltiness before God and sometimes their conscience tells them that and other times because conscience is fallen and weak it doesn't tell them that but nonetheless death sooner or later will arrest them and take them to the grave and if they are not saved it will take them lower than the grave and that is the problem mankind has. It is an extremely serious problem, the law is our adversary. Jesus says that in the Sermon on the Mount, agree with thine adversary quickly in case he arrests you and puts you in prison. He means the Ten Commandments.

Let me remind you of the Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.

Thou shalt not make a graven image.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and be very careful how you speak of God. Be careful of these worldly phrases like "gosh" and "golly", "heavens above", "gee", and "crickey". They're all mild blasphemy. Be careful how you use the sacred names of God, He's listening, the moral law condemns us every time we deviate in any way from the absolute requirements of holiness in our speech.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The whole day is God's, our minds should be dedicated to Him and all worldly thoughts put out of our minds as far as that is possible. Some have to work, perhaps as policemen, or as nurses, and so on - that's necessary, that's essential, that's not sin. But for us to do other things that are not essential on the Lord 's Day is to break the moral law.

And then the law goes on like this. Honour thy father and thy mother. So especially when we are young we must be most respectful to our parents and obedient to them. If we're not then we're breaking God's law and incurring guilt upon our souls before God.

Thous shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

Thou shalt not covet - which means have a secret inward unspoken desire for what's not ours, to take away from somebody else's goods for our own benefit, selfishly - all of that is to break the moral law and I say it again - the law is our problem.

I wonder, dearest friend, if you have realise it? I wonder if the point has come home to your conscience? That we're all of us created under the authority of God's holy law. The moral law, the Ten Commandments, is not simply a few ideas plucked out of the air by random, put down by Moses on a list of Ten. The moral law is given to man because it accords the very nature of God. The Ten Commandments are based on the very nature of being and constitution of God Himself. The moral law is what it is, the commandments are what they are because God is what He is and He could require no less of us. These are the standards God requires because He is God, that sort of God, that most holy and awesome reverent being called God.

Now that's where true religion begins and that's how people are converted. That's why Martin Luther was converted, because he realised his guiltiness before God and he wanted to find how to get out of this ill state and he keep going to his priest and confessing his sins to his priest, but it didn't work, it didn't give him any peace, so he went without food and fasted, and he beat himself with a little whip called a flagellum, he became a monk, he went without food as he went without sleep, he lay on a cold stone floor to mortify his sin. But it didn't work. Only when he found the secret in my text did he find peace with God.

So let's move on to see what Paul means in verse 19.

"For I through the law am dead to the law" (text)


I put it to you like this - to become dead to the moral law is salvation. If I can find the place where the moral law cannot accuse me or condemn me or bring me to the grave, then am I safe and then am I saved. Now there is a place and the place is to get into that righteousness which Jesus Christ has offered to us, and does offer to us, in the gospel. If we can get into the position in which we have the righteousness of Christ clothing us then the law cannot condemn us because if I am righteous in Christ with His righteousness, imputed to me, then the moral law cannot accuse me and cannot condemn me and it can do me no harm. And that is what the gospel. So as soon as the person believes in Christ, as their saviour, the effect of that is they move from being under the law to being not under the law - it is a movement from guilt and condemnation to being right with God, and therefore justified by faith. We have peace in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, but the preparatory condition of mind in which the person is before they seek that peace is they have to realise their danger. And the danger is extremely serious because to live under the authority of the law and to die under the authority if the law is eternal punishment. It is to lose your soul, it is to go into a lost eternity where there is no further hope, and that is what the apostle Paul is explaining.

He is now, he said, dead to the law which means he is no longer accountable to the law, he is no longer in the position where he has to answer to the law's demands, to view it another way the time hath come through salvation by Christ into a condition in which the ten commandments cannot condemn me, cannot even accuse me, before God.

Now then, interestingly enough, he tells us how he came to that condition "Paul...", he's asking, "Paul, how did you come to this condition in which you are dead to the law, how did you get there?", we could say. And he says to us, "I came to this condition through the law, I though the law am dead to the law". Now clearly that requires explanation. And the explanation is this: it is the Ten Commandments which make us aware of our danger. This is a function of the Ten Commandments which we refer to as the law being a school master. Now in Roman times a school master was not somebody had a cap and gown and a piece of calk in hand as tradition has been with us. In Roman times a school master had a cane or a belt and he accompanied the boy from home to school and from school back to home and if he did anything which was out of order the school master called him out and he flogged him. That is his function, he was paid by the boy's father to do that. These are days when there was real discipline.

Now that's what Paul means - the ten commandments have in my own life played the part of a school master, that is they have flogged me, they have beaten me, they have beaten the daylights out of my they have made me feel pain and anguish, and terror. Now we have a word for that experience, we call it being convinced of our sin, or being convicted of our sin. It is a distinct condition of mind of heart of soul, and what brings a person to being convinced and convicted of their sin so as to be afraid of our accountability to the Lord is the law itself. The law as our school master brings us into an understanding of the guiltiness of our guilt and the guiltiness of our sin before God. And it does that not because God is in any way cruel but because God has to be cruel to be kind. You and I have no interest in God by nature, you and I by nature would far rather spend our time in pleasure like the rest of the world. That's the way sin has lured us, we're all of us the ruin of mankind, you and I, that's the way we're born. With no love for God, with no love for his law, so into the experience of all those who are to be saved God brings this painful knowledge of his law. He brings into our experience a realisation of our danger, of our guilt. Now which of the two persons is in a safer case - suppose you are living in a house which goes on fire, imagine there are two people in the house and the house goes on fire. One of these two just lifts up his eyes and watched the smoke in the flames and begins to laugh, "Ha" he says "This is nothing, who cares about a few bits of smoke and flame". And the other one says, "But wait a minute that smoke and flame will bring the house down on top of us, if that happens we are finished".

Now which of those two would you say is a wiser man - is it the man who says "oh who cares for a bit of smoke and a bit of fire" or is it the man who is afraid and says "if we don't do something fast we are going to be crushed and burned to death". Well I put it to you my dearly beloved that every wise person can understand that the sensible one is the second one, to realise what it means to be in a burning house is the start of getting out of it, If you don't even know you are in the burning house, and don't know the dangers of the burning house then you are likely to perish in it. But if you do realise the dangers of being in a burning place then at least there is some hope of trying to get out. So it is with God's moral law. The way in which God takes people out of their danger, it's to show them the danger and to bring it so mightily home to their consciences that they tremble. And they are afraid and they cry to God for mercy, like the Philippian jailor. He is standing trembling, "What must I do", he said, "to be saved". Like those on the day of Penticost when Peter was preaching "What must we do...". You see their consciences were pricked with the sense of guilt.

I believe this is what Paul had when he was on the road to Damascus even before he saw the glory of Christ in Acts Chapter 9 where his conversion is recorded. Jesus said to Paul on the road to Damascus: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks". And those pricks were his conscience. God was beginning to deal with him through the law. Surely that is what is meant there. God is beginning to convince him of his dangerous condition before he actually found Christ, and that's what Paul means I believe in verse 19, that it was through the law as a school master, convincing him, convicting him, that Paul came to be dead to the law.

Now what does it mean to be dead to the Law? Well thankfully Paul himself gives us an illustration of what it means to be dead to the law. It's a very interesting illustration, you might say a rather unexpected one, and I'm going to turn to it but I'll summarise it for you and give you the reference. You can study it at your leisure if you wish, I hope you will. It is to be found at the beginning of Romans Chapter 7.

Here's the illustration for uses of this very point. Paul says: "A woman is married to her husband. She is under his jurisdiction, that is what the law of God says, that a woman who is married is under the jurisdiction of her husband, under his authority. Now, let me be delicate in what I say. If the woman goes off with another man then she is classed as an adulteress, but not if the first husband is dead or legitimately divorced, and there is a such a thing of course as a biblical divorce. So Paul says: if it should be that the woman who is married, her husband dies, then she can be married, legitimately, properly, without any reflection whatsoever on her own character, Now, what is the application of that illustration that Paul uses? It's this: that you and I and all of us, all mankind, as we are born into this world, we are married to the moral law, it is our husband. We are obliged to it, we are obliged absolutely to it, we are under the authority and the jurisdiction of the Ten Commandments. If we break then we are guilty before God, and we will be punished if we don't escape from the consequences of our disobedience.

But says Paul in Romans 7, the first few verses, he says, there is a way out, it is to become dead to the moral law by being married again. And you say, to whom then can we be married so as to be free from this jurisdiction of the law? Answer: to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

So when we marry to Christ, which is another way of saying when we are union towards Christ, (because that's what marriage is, it is a union), when you come into union with Christ by faith, when you believe in Christ, when you trust in Christ, when you say to Christ: "Lord, be my righteousness", when you say to Christ: "Lord, save my soul", when you say to Christ: "Oh Lord, I am a wretched, fallen, lost sinner, have mercy upon me!", when that is your attitude to the Lord Jesus Christ, then he will marry you to himself, so to say, he will take you into union with himself, and you become then in Christ and under Christ, and no longer obliged to the ten commandments as a covenant of works.

Now, my dearest friends, that is what Paul is saying, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (text), and then he explains it in verse 20. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." So you see, here is now the second husband. The first one was the moral law, when we are unconverted we are under the authority and jurisdiction, the accusing power, the condemning power of God's ten commandments, we're all of us guilty as long as we remain in this unconverted condition. How then can we escape from that terrible condemnation? By this, we have to be united to Christ, by faith. He has to become our second husband, when that happens then the jurisdiction, and the authority and the condemning power of the first husband is gone for good and forever. Thank God.

So there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus because Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for them who believe, and to believe in Christ is to enter into all the benefits of his blessed life, and his blessed death, and resurrection, and what's meant in summery, Paul says here, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live" (text). "I have died". [We say] "Paul you've died? What have you died to?" [Paul says] "I've died to the moral law, as the covenant of works, and the covenant of life. The moral law with me can now have no condemning power". [We say ] "Oh does that mean, Paul, then, that you can live any way you want?". "Oh no", says Paul, and that is my third and final point: what Paul says now is this, he says "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."


"Oh no", says Paul, and that is my third and final point: what Paul says now is this, he says "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He is now living unto God. When we become joined to Christ by faith, you don't become an anarchist, you don't become a lawless man or woman, when you become united to Christ, you love the moral law and that's the mystery. When we are unconverted we resented the moral law. Why should God tell me to keep the Sabbath day holy? Why should God tell me I'm not to covet? Why has God told me I'm not to look at these nasty pictures and read the nasty books, like the rest of the world? Why does God say that I can't do it? I don't like God for saying that. You see that is the way the natural person is. But when you are converted joined to Christ, in union with Christ the moral law is what you love. And you say to God, Oh how I love your law, I wish I could keep it, 100%, with all my heart, I love the ten commandments, I love my Christian brethren and sisters, I love the church, I love the preaching, I love the Bible, Oh God I am sorry I'm not perfect and I long for the day when I'm perfect in Heaven at last. So you see, that's what Paul is saying.


But before I close let me make it clear that the way to have this love for God is not by attempting to keep the moral law 100% because you can't do it, it's impossible. If you think that by your own goodness, and decency, and morality. and so on, you can keep the moral law sufficiently well, you're deceiving yourself, you can't do it. That's called legalism and it doesn't get anyone to Heaven, it doesn't get anyone saved. Don't look to keeping God's law to get to Heaven, you'll never succeed. That's why Martin Luther broke from the Church of Rome because the Church of Rome said, if you do good works then you get to Heaven eventually, if you do good works as the church commands you'll get to Heaven at last. "Nonsense", says Martin Luther, "You cannot get to Heaven that way at all, there's no gospel there whatever. The only way to get to Heaven is by believing in the crucified saviour, trusting in the righteousness which Christ has obtained by his holy life, and the blood that he shed for me upon the cross."

So that's what makes the person godly and good, a Christian, an heir of Heaven, and when you have that you love your brethren and sisters in Christ, you love the cause of Christ, His name, His Word, everything to do with Him is your passion and that's what verse 19 said at the end: "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." (text). And that's the whole law in one word.

My very dear friends, this is what Paul is saying. I beseech to you, make sure that you personally have understood this matter, and that you personally are trusting in this Saviour for ever-lasting life and hope.

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